Minimize Damage from Wildfires and Tropical Storms 

July 8, 2021: Officials in western states have been warning communities and people to prepare for a challenging, and potentially catastrophic, wildfire season.1 But wildfires aren’t confined to the West. Much of the country is experience wildland fire activity, with some areas competing for firefighting resources.2

For other areas of the U.S., it’s tropical storm season that causes concern. Coastal areas are bracing for what is predicted to be very active hurricane season.3 For 2021, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts 13 to 20 named storms, of which 6 to 10 could become hurricanes. We’ve already seen our first hurricane of the year with Elsa, creating damaging flooding from Florida to the East Coast. 

The time to prepare and reduce your risk of damage is now. Here are some things you can do to prepare if your church, school, or ministry buildings lie in the path of either threat.

Preparing for Wildfires

If you’re in an area experiencing dry heat or are under a no-fire order, preparing your ministry’s property in advance of a fire can minimize damage. DisasterSafety.org recommends creating a defensible space around your buildings. This includes removing dried or dead vegetation, trimming any tree branches that hang over your roof, and removing anything combustible within 5 feet of each building. Most importantly, determine the emergency evacuation route for your ministry, in case you need to leave quickly.

As a wildfire progresses, blazing embers that fly ahead of a wildfire’s flames pose the largest threat to buildings. Here are a few steps you can take to protect vulnerable areas of your property when a wildfire is approaching:

  • Cover single-paned windows with shutters or ½ inch-thick plywood.

  • Leave a light on in each room to aid firefighters.

  • Place tennis balls in downspouts and fill the gutters with water.

Preparing for Tropical Storms

If you're in an area that could be a hit by a tropical storm or hurricane, look into repairs and upgrades that could prevent or reduce damage to your church and school buildings. Some projects may require professional help. Here are a few ideas to help minimize damage from a hurricane:

  • When a hurricane watch is posted, move any outside furniture or equipment indoors.

  • Anchor your building’s roof to the walls using hurricane straps. If your windows break during a hurricane, this will help keep the roof from being lifted off by the wind pressure that enters the building.

  • Trim trees and shrubbery. This will reduce the chance that a branch could become a projectile or fall on your building.

  • Install storm shutters on your windows and glass doors. A less expensive option is to use ¾ inch-thick plywood that you can put up when a watch is posted.

Free Resources for Ministries

Whatever disasters are common to your area, our online Safety Library can help you prepare—and recover. We’ve selected a few articles to get you started:

Disaster Planning

Tropical Storms and Hurricanes

Wildfires  

Additional Topics

1 “2021 North American Wildfire Season.” Center for Disaster Philanthropy, 1 July 2021. https://disasterphilanthropy.org/disaster/2021-north-american-wildfire-season.
2 “Fire Information: National Wildland Fire Preparedness Levels.” National Interagency Fire Center, accessed 7 July 2021. https://www.nifc.gov/fire-information.
3 “NOAA predicts another active Atlantic hurricane season.” National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 20 May 2021. https://www.noaa.gov/news-release/noaa-predicts-another-active-atlantic-hurricane-season.